Last summer, Children's Cancer& Leukaemia Group issued a call for T-cell blood cancer research proposals to be funded using Ruby's fund. In December, they completed their assessment process of the proposals and agreed to award a grant for a project to "Investigate how regulatory regions of the genome communicate with cancer causing genes". The lead grant holder is Dr Lisa Russell at Newcastle University, and the grant totals £98k. CCLG's expert assessors confirmed that this project would produce useful new knowledge about how the genes involved in leukaemia work together.
Regulatory regions of our DNA are responsible for interacting with genes and switching them on and off. In healthy cells, regulatory regions carefully control important genes at the correct time to allow cells to complete their job. Some patients with leukaemia have errors in their DNA that lead to these regulatory regions moving to a different genomic neighbourhood, switching on the wrong gene. Due to the large number of genes involved in these errors, it is hard to develop ways of killing the cancer cells and most of these errors cannot be specifically blocked by current medicines. The team have developed a new model that helps to understand how these regulatory regions switch on the wrong gene. In this project, they will investigate how these regulatory regions and the genes they switch on are communicating with each other, which will be key to developing new therapies targeting their interaction in cancer cells. Although many different genes are involved, they always join with only a handful of regulatory regions. They will use this research to identify a way to switch these misplaced regulatory regions off and stop the cancer cells growing. This type of basic science research is needed as the foundation from which the final goal will be to design new types of drugs based on stopping the regulatory regions communicating with the wrong genes.
We're so excited to hear about how the research progresses and will provide updates via this site in due course.